LOS ANGELES — The USC Trojans capitalized on several Jacksonville miscues in the season opener at Dedeaux Field to pick up an 8-2 win Friday night in Los Angeles. USC took advantage of six Dolphins errors and got a strong performance from senior starter Andrew Triggs. The right hander pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out six.
“It’s not so much about me,” Triggs said, “but really the entire team and getting off on the right foot. It’s huge. That’s what Friday nights are about.”
USC’s No. 1 and No. 2 hitters, freshman Garrett Stubbs and junior Adam Landecker, set the table for the Trojans attack. Stubbs reached base three times while Landecker was a perfect 3-for-3 and also was walked and hit by a pitch. Kevin Roundtree and Kevin Swick also recorded multi-hit games for the Trojans.
Ethan Loosen was the only Dolphin to record multiple hits. Adam Brett Walker II drove in Jacksonville’s only two runs with a double in the third inning. And starter Steve Eagerton collected the loss, his first since 2008.
The two teams will meet back at Dedeaux Field at 2 PM (PST) on Saturday and at 1 PM (PST) Sunday.
5 Things To Take Away
1. Absolutely atrocious defense - Head coach Terry Alexander is starting his 33rd year at Jacksonville, including the last 22 as the head coach. But after the game, he was left scratching his head.
“I told them I haven’t seen them play this bad defensively in years,” Alexander said. “We pitched fine. We just didn’t pick it up and throw it. In some ways, it worries me, but I’ve never seen it before and I’m not expecting to see it again.”
Just how bad were the Dolphins? Taylor Ratliff had three errors in right field, but that was only half of the teams errors. Jacksonville had SIX ERRORS and there were a couple more plays that could have gone as errors with a stringent scorekeeper.
Physical errors can sometimes be forgiven. For example, Ratliff is listed as an infielder on the team roster. He played his first game in the outfield. That can be tough, especially if you aren’t used to playing at night. But it wasn’t just the physical errors.
The Dolphins’ catchers also had three passed balls. The outfielders, at least twice, gave USC extra bases by failing to hit the cutoff man. And just for good measure, reliever Adam Maxon was called for a balk.
2. Taking advantage - One of the keys in college baseball is taking advantage of another team’s mistakes.
“It’s crucial in the college game when, in general, you’re not going to have the luxury of scoring eight runs in a game,” Triggs said. “Whenever you can take advantage of another team’s mistakes, that’s always going to help you put one up in the ‘Win’ column.”
Many of the mistakes Jacksonville made are flubs the Trojans have made over the last few years. For USC, those errors usually were followed by close losses. On Friday, the Trojans had no fielding errors, but also capitalized when the Dolphins messed up. That could be the difference in USC finally breaking the six-year streak of not having a winning record and also making it back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
3. Adam Brett Walker is legit - Some players can fill out a uniform while others are gamers that don’t look intimidating but get the job done. Walker is a gamer that definitely fills out his uniform. He isn’t just a bulky stiff that can hit for power, either.
“You can just look at him and see he’s a heck of talent,” Alexander said. “He can hit. He can run and he can throw. He can do a lot of things.”
As he runs, I imagine little threads crying out in pain as they are stretched with each motion. But every one of those strides and glides has perfect fluidity. His swing has the same fluidity. It actually reminds me a bit of Frank Thomas’ glory days.
He showed a classic Frank Thomas’ line drive as well when Triggs left a fastball over the middle of the plate.
“He’s a bonafide hitter. There’s no doubt about that,” USC head coach Frank Cruz said. “When you’re pitching against that guy, he’s going to get some hits. You just have to minimize them. We left the ball over the plate and he punished it, just like good hitters do.”
Walker crushed the pitch into the left-centerfield gap where it thumped off the middle of the wall about four feet short of a home run. The blast drove in both of Jacksonville’s runs on the night and even gave the Dophins a short-lived lead.
4. Andrew Triggs may finally be ready - Triggs may have still been in diapers the last time he started a game on any day of the week besides Friday. He seemingly has been USC’s Friday night starter since Mike Gillespie was still the Trojans coach, but Triggs hasn’t yet become that strong-armed workhorse that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from so many Pac-12 teams.
After watching him pitch Friday and a few weeks ago in the Trojans’ alumni game, I think the Triggs everyone has been hoping to see has finally arrived. He has enough confidence in three pitches to throw them at any point in the count and he showed his moxie in the second and third innings tonight.
In the second inning, Jacksonville’s Jonathan Murphy stole third with one out. It was early in the game and USC had a 1-0 lead, so the defense played back, conceding a run, if necessary. It wasn’t. Triggs struck out Jake Huxtable and got a groundout to end the inning.
The next inning, he made his one major mistake on the fastball to Walker. The two-run double gave the Dolphins a 2-1 lead, and it looked like that could blossom into a bigger rally with Murphy due up. Murphy battled through a lengthy at bat but Triggs triumphed, inducing a ground out to end the inning.
5. What a debut! Garrett Stubbs is supposed to be buried on USC’s depth chart. The freshman was brought in as a catcher…meaning he’s the de facto No. 3 behind senior Kevin Roundtree and one of last year’s top recruits Jake Hernandez. However, Cruz said a couple a weeks ago that he wouldn’t be surprised if all three found their way into the lineup.
Stubbs surely did tonight. The true freshman started in left field, a position he hadn’t played in a game before. He batted leadoff and set the table. Stubbs went 2-for-5 and reached on an error. USC scored in all three innings Stubbs started the inning because all three times he found his way onto the basepaths. He also hit the ball sharply in both his at bats that he did not reach.
The 5-foot-9, 150 pounder also made a mark in the outfield when he made a diving catch on a sinking liner in the seventh inning. Stubbs quickly hopped to his feet a fired a dart to first base to double up a runner and end the inning. Not bad for a third stringer.